Everyday Grief Miracles
It’s so easy to hop from highlight to highlight on social media. I’m guilty of doing that. Post pretty pictures. Exotic adventures. Productive moments. It feels vulnerable to actually talk about the hard parts of life.
I remember in my early weeks of widowhood, when I would go to church with my newborn baby and toddler. People wanted to be sensitive to the suicide of my husband and then the death of my mother that followed months later. They would tilt their heads to one side and ask in hushed tones, “How. Are. You?”
“Well, it’s a Crap Storm.”
I wanted to say that. But didn’t. I realize friends and acquaintances were trying to be helpful, and this might be my personality, but that question made me feel powerless. Our lives were a disaster, my faith in tatters and no foreseeable way to fix it. No easy answers.
As a Christian, I get it, I believe transformation comes from God’s loving power. But the news producer in me wanted to efficiently move this grief forward, produce widowhood successfully, and get to the next chapter.
Cause this one was unbearable.
I couldn’t change my timetable of healing, but I could get healthy, find my support team and get strong in the process. Which actually became my pathway to recovery. I worked really hard to become an empowered widowed mom and help others find their strength as well.
Today, no one tilts their head in my direction, asking me sad questions in hushed tones. But seeming strong all the time can be a trap too.
The irony is that real courage and empowerment come from consistent vulnerability.
Whether it’s a challenging time in marriage, loss, work, or just life. I’d like to believe that once you dig yourself out of grief, pain can’t touch you again. Or, at least, you can build a really big shield so most pain that you can control can’t touch you.
But that’s not the truth.
Pain is transformative. That’s what I choose to believe. Pain doesn’t get the last word. Transformation does. That decision sometimes feels like the only choice we have in grief. Will this pain make us bitter or better? That’s the main theme in my 180 Your Life books. I’ve seen the transformative power of pain turned into purpose and it’s simply stunning. Lives are helped, strength is found, purpose is forged. But it’s not an easy journey.
When I am in the thick of a painful moment, it feels a whole lot like isolation, sadness and even rage. And, like some cosmic cherry on top, if that isn’t the moment I miss my late-husband. And, after nine years, I don’t want to. Not like that. Seriously. It feels sacrilegious to admit, but I don’t want to feel that pain.
But it happens anyway. No matter what race I run, or mega-trip I take or botanical-paradise I forge out of my front and backyard. I still have grief moments, not all the time, but it happens. Because grief is the flip-side of love and that’s eternal.
I want to remember Jason well, yes. I enjoy looking at my girls and seeing his genetics play out: like when my daughter, Arie, creates a detailed diagram of the heart’s ventricles, or my youngest, Sophia, is keenly insightful into how someone is behaving.
Moments like that are like finding Fabergé Easter eggs encrusted with diamonds. Beautiful, living genetic gifts of their earthly father, Jason. That’s Awesome. In those moments, I smile and say in my heart, “Honey, I hope you see our girls because they are Amazing!”
That’s the happy, healthy side of grief recovery.
What I’m talking about is that sinking feeling in my stomach when life throws a curve ball and I silently think, “Why aren’t you HERE? I need you right NOW. I don’t want to do One. More. Thing. on my own. I know Jesus is my Heavenly Husband but I’m too freaked to be okay with that today.”
That’s exactly how I felt going into Sophia’s 9th birthday. Which was Yesterday. I can be a master at not showing it. Because, I privately hope that after nine years of widowhood and Olympic-style grief recovery, that this effort must qualify as satisfying some universal grief quota and I’m done. But I’m not.
Life still throws curve-balls, which can result in sleepless nights, add a tsunami of Atlanta pollen and I recently got an epic case of bronchitis. The sleeping-three-hours-and-coughing-all-night kind. My lungs were so filled with gunk that walking a half block was exhausting for a while.
Meanwhile, Sophia was gleefully counting down the days to her 9th birthday and all I could do was silently pray…”Lord, I’m. So. Tired. Sophia should have a wonderful day on her 9th birthday, but I have no idea how to pull it off.”
Here’s what a modern-day miracle looked like in our house
this past weekend.
I was transparent about being really tired with my long-time friend, Linda, who is married with two sons. She volunteered to drive 5 hours to my house to spend two days with our family.
Linda simply showed up, ready to help.
No head-tilt or hushed tones. She worked with us: cooking, cleaning, sorting, doing laundry and decorating for Sophia’s party. In the process, I felt refreshed. Revived. We felt loved. We all laughed together as Linda worked in my kitchen like some culinary ninja.
After 48 hours, Linda drove five hours back home, back to her life on a working ranch that she, her husband and her school-age boys run, with actual livestock.
Not knowing the circumstances, my dear friend, Scott Rigsby, simply volunteered to treat my daughters to a pre-birthday party lunch at the American Girl Doll Store. As a dual amputee, Scott gets grief. Period. As the world’s first dual amputee IRONMAN Triahtlete…He also gets triumphal living. He’s helped me healthfully navigate some really deep scars after loss from suicide. That process has led to a treasured friendship. Maybe instinctively he knew we needed some backup this weekend.
So Scott just…showed up.
My girls were beyond thrilled…Sophia and Arie smiled from ear-to-ear as we enjoyed a lovely lunch with tiny tea cups and dolls in a pink paradise.
Then Scott and his little friend, Sarah, drove back to my house where we had 30 minutes to tweak final details for Sophia’s actual 9th birthday party. Guests arrived and the Luau party was was simply magical!
Hawaiian tribal face painting (done by me), dancing in dollar-store hula skirts, fun crafts, singing Happy Birthday, delectable gluten-free treats Linda made with our family, silly string war, tossing candy from our homemade piñata, all capped with a Disney movie.
Together we created Laughter, Joy, Love.
My girls kept hugging me over and over again and saying, “This is the BEST Birthday EVER!!! THANK YOU!!” They were Gleeful. Seeing them so happy re-energized me.
And that’s the Secret. Right.There.
Though the years this is how we healed as a family after loss: different people, different ways of helping, one theme…they all just Showed Up. Friends, Family, even strangers helped us, and we helped them. Together we grew.
So when grief, in its many forms, visits: job loss, illness, divorce, betrayal or death…pick a color, any color. . . Don’t let it beat you. Show Up.
I know it’s inconvenient. And you probably don’t know what to say, or what to do. You will make mistakes. You will likely say the wrong thing. I still do. So what? All that’s okay. Because. You. Showed. Up. (This is my 82 year old father who lives with us…He shows up A Lot!)
The Transformative Power of Grief:
Becoming the Best Version of Ourselves
Helping One Another. Becoming More Compassionate. Becoming More Vulnerable, Learning to Get Back Up…In that process we become…The Best Version of Ourselves.
No smoke and mirrors. No lightning bolts. No Quick Fix. Just Real Life. And maybe,
That’s where healing happens, where vulnerability, trust and joy intersect. Then Love grows. And that’s Life.
10 Tips to Empower Your Life Today
What if you’re the one grieving today? Sure, it’s nice when someone shows up to help, but that doesn’t always happen. You have to be proactive. Here are some steps that I take when grief hits.
- Set healthy boundaries. Create a space of peace in a chaotic situation.
- Find those who will help you. Seek. Ask. Knock. Be proactive in your healing and find helpful recourses in your community.
- Exercise outside. Schedule walks with a friend and exercise. Get in the sunshine.
- Raw prayer. Pissed off? Pray. Enraged? Pray. Depressed? Pray. Mad at God? God can take that. Ever read the Bible, folks got mad at God then too. A seasoned Christian asked me recently if I had forgiven God. Can you do that? Then I did indeed forgive God for not working on my timetable and allowing pain into my life. I know it sounds presumptuous. God doesn’t do things my way in a broken world and I feel a release when I forgive that unpredictable process, choose to trust God anyway and listen for the next wise steps. Reading wisdom from the Bible helps too…I like starting with the book of Proverbs.
- Eat Healthy. You can’t control life but you can control how you nourish yourself. Set yourself up chemically to be healthy. You may sleep better…and life is better with a good night’s rest.
- Simplify. Get rid of what doesn’t bring you joy and clean up your space. A peaceful space helps inspire peace in your life. Peace inspires wisdom. Wise choices eventually lead to Joy.
- Forgive offenses. Anger, Rage, Revenge, Gossip…that stuff’s Pure Poison. There is enough suffering in the world. Let it go before it does further damage. Make the conscious choice to forgive. If the hurt is too deep, ask God to help you release the offense. For your sake. For your health’s sake. Then choose to forgive over and over again. Will you be best friends with the person that really hurt you? Maybe not. That’s between you and God. But you don’t have to nurse poison in your heart, because that’s not healthy for you and then nobody wins. Forgiveness Frees You.
- Help Others. Helping others gets you out of your own head and places your problems in perspective. Helping others also releases good endorphins in your system called a “Helper’s High.”
- Write. Somehow, the act of journaling helps us frame our experience. Brené Brown says, “When you own your story, you write your own ending.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my circumstances to write my ending. I choose my legacy with my actions and choices.
- Do something new. Take a risk, start an adventure. Try something that has always interested you. That’s always my ticket to fun and re-engaging with life and loved ones in joyful ways.
I don’t have grief all figured out, but these are a few steps that truly help me move forward. Be sure to check with your doctor/counselor before making changes to your life.
As my neighbor, Mary, once said, “Make the next best decision, Mishael. And then the next best decision after that.” It’s that simple.
Life gives us amazingly beautiful moments and heartbreak. Either way, if you
- Make wise decisions in both scenarios
- Ask God for strength and wisdom
- Reach out and help others
those wise decisions cultivate beauty in your soul. And that beauty is like the dawning of the sun in your spirit, transforming the night of pain into a New Day.
That’s when your Light shines like the Noon-Day Sun. That’s when Transformation Empowers you, changing your dry places into a lush garden, and maybe even inspiring those around you, which then feeds your purpose. That’s when pain connects us into a supportive community whose love refreshes our souls in a broken world. That’s when Love Wins.
That’s the Power of Grief. And it begins with
Just Showing Up.
9″Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
11″And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.…
author, 180 Your Life From Tragedy to Triumph: A Woman’s Grief Guide